(PIKESVILLE, MD) – Employees from across Maryland state government are assisting the Maryland State Police (MSP) in an “all hands on deck” data processing effort this weekend designed to continue MSP’s efforts to ensure both (1) that firearm purchase applications are processed as quickly as possible, and (2) that firearms are not released to prohibited persons.
Data entry personnel, who are all state employees, from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Department of Human Resources, and the Department of Juvenile Services began assisting the State Police Licensing Division yesterday and are continuing their work today, tomorrow, and Monday. Each agency has between 25 and 40 employees working each day to input information from the backlogged firearms purchase applications into electronic form. MSP personnel will then be able to conduct the necessary background checks more quickly and efficiently. The employees from each agency have volunteered for the extra duty.
Various steps have been taken to protect each applicant’s personal information:
• None of the assisting state employees will be conducting any type of background check or investigation — that will all continue to be handled by the appropriate MSP personnel.
• Each of the employees involved in the data entry process is bound by a confidentiality agreement.
• State employees from these five agencies deal with sensitive and confidential information every day in the course of their regular duties — this includes mental health records, inmate records, driving records, and social services records, all of which contain information like social security numbers.
• The firearm purchase application information provided to these employees is encrypted and all discs will be destroyed after the data is entered for MSP.
• All employees have been instructed that this information is not to be released outside the agencies, or their networks.
• The employees assisting in this data entry will not be accessing confidential information related to any of the 16 inquiries conducted by MSP during a background investigation for a firearms purchase application — their role is to simply enter the applicant’s data electronically to expedite the MSP investigative process.
• This procedure was reviewed and approved as appropriate by an assistant attorney general assigned to the MSP.
• This process is being actively overseen through auditors at each agency and at the State Police Licensing Division to ensure accuracy and quality control of the information.
MSP scanned more than 35,000 backlogged firearms purchase applications and delivered the encrypted data to each of the assisting agencies. MSP personnel met with liaisons at each agency and trained them on the proper procedures needed for this data entry process. The work began yesterday and will continue through Monday. Employees from the various agencies will be working in their own offices.
MSP has been working since last fall to address the unprecedented surge in regulated firearms purchase applications. In December 2012, Licensing Division personnel began working 21-hours a day, seven days a week. A resource pool of almost 60 sworn and civilian personnel who are able to conduct background investigations were identified and were called upon to supplement Licensing Division staff. From August 2012 to August 2013, State Police personnel have worked more than 24,000 hours of overtime addressing the firearm purchase application backlog.
In the past year, 21 troopers have been reassigned from other duties and 17 civilian employees have been added to the Licensing Division for a total of 73 employees as of August 1st. Additional employees continue to be hired. Thirty-seven computers have been added to provide workstations for the additional personnel.
As of September 6, 2013, the Maryland State Police Licensing Division has received 88,884 firearms purchase applications and 48,934 of those applications have been processed. The applications processed so far this year number more than the number of applications received in each of the years 2010 and 2011. The weekly average of applications received in 2010 was 744. In 2013, the weekly average of applications received is 2,432.
This weekend’s extra effort is an attempt to speed the background check process by converting the purchase application into an electronic form and eliminating that step for State Police investigators. New options and ideas will continue to be explored and employed in an effort to overcome this challenge, while keeping the safety of Maryland citizens as our top priority.